Family nature holidays

Sleeping with animals: 10 great wildlife adventures

Last updated 21st November 2022

1. Bedbugs sleeopovers, ZLS London Zoo

Bedbugs sleepover ZSL

For the kids ages seven to 11 who are more interested in creepy crawlies than wild animals, these sleepovers are ideal. Aimed at groups, the sessions include games, storytelling and talks, and are also open to bug-loving kids accompanied by an adult. There are more than 140 species in the bug house – but they’re behind glass, so there’s no chance of finding any unwanted visitors in your sleeping bag. Two days’ entry to the zoo, a goody bag for kids and a simple breakfast are included in the price. You also get to explore the zoo by torchlight.

2. Elephant Lodge, Port Lympne, Kent

Elephant

Thee lodge is set within 600 acres of safari park, with views of the cheetah enclosure, and made up of 19 glamping tents with private toilets and showers – six also have self-catering facilities. The tents surround the clubhouse restaurant, and there’s a café and a play area. Free entry to the Port Lympne reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park (with at least one evening safari when the park is closed to the public) are included.

3. Cabane du Trappeur, Parc Animalier des Pyrenees, France

Cabane du Trappeur

A night in the log-cabin-style ‘hunter’s hut’, set within the wolf enclosure, includes a picnic dinner of local produce and a continental breakfast. The price includes two days’ entry to the park, which showcases animals mainly from the region, including bears and giant otters, in their natural surroundings. There’s also an enclosure for rescued vultures that can no longer fly, after being injured by windmills.

Price: A night in the Cabane du Trappeur, which sleeps up to four people, costs £210 for two adults, with a £35 supplement for each child aged three or over (under-threes are not admitted)

Find out more: parc-animalier-pyrenees.com

4. Safari West African Safari, California, USA

safari truck

Set on a nature reserve, these luxury tents with polished wood floors and bathrooms with copper basins allow you to sleep among the sounds of cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, flamingos and more. Dinners are served at a communal dining area with other families, and there’s a nightly marshmallow roast around the fire. A tour of the animals in a safari vehicle is included, as well as continental breakfast.

5. Safari Lodges, Zoo de la Fleche Sarthe, France

Zoo de la Fleche Sarthe

These high-end lodges each have private terraces with toughened glass so that, depending which lodge you choose, you can eat and sleep next to wolves, tigers or bears. Ski-chalet-style Arctic Lodge is next to the polar bear enclosure, and features a semi-sunken master bedroom and hot tub, plus there are three simpler lodges set above ‘Nosy Komba’ Island – an enclosed area where lemurs run free.

6. A night in the land of the Caribou, St-Felicien wildlife reserve, Quebec, Canada

St-Felicien wildlife reserve

Spend the night in a prospector tent at one of the biggest wildlife parks in Quebec. During the two-day trip, you’ll get to track caribou in their natural habitat, feed polar bears and go behind the scenes at the zoo keeper’s kitchen and veterinary clinic. You’ll also learn to identify birds, canoe on the lake and enjoy an evening meal by the fire.

7. Lookout lodge at Whipsnade Zoo

Lookout lodge at Whipsnade Zoo

Next to the white rhino enclosure, named after the zoo’s most popular animals, nine private lodges sleep up to four people. Bathroom facilities are nearby. A night includes a sunset tour, a torchlit walk and a private morning zoo tour, plus a two-course dinner and breakfast. Children must be five or over. Guests also receive a 15 per cent discount on a Meet the Animals experience, during which you can get up close with elephants, giraffes, lions or tigers.

8. Snore & Roar at the Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington DC

National Zoo, washington

Sleep in a four-person tent on the top of Lion/Tiger Hill and book your dates according to which keeper-led tour you’d like to take. Options include the American Trail, which features sea lions and beavers; the Asia Trail, which showcases leopards and pandas; the Great Cats tour, the Elephant Community Centre tour and many more. Children must be at least six.

9. Sleeping with sharks, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

sleeping with sharks

Suitable for children between the ages of five and 15 accompanied by an adult, these events are held on selected dates during the school holidays. A night at the aquarium includes a twilight tour, arts and crafts, games in the exhibits, a big- screen movie, a midnight snack and continental breakfast. Families bring sleeping bags, roll-up mats and eye masks to bed down close to the tank sometime after midnight.

10. Roar & Snore safari, San Diego safari park, USA

San Diego safari park

Spend the night in a family-sized tent within the safari park – there are three levels of tent, from basic to premium, with wood floors and a rug. Sleepovers include an after-hours look at the wildlife, themed guided walks, campfire activities, dinner, and even snack and breakfast. You can also add on night-vision goggles or a caravan safari – a two-hour drive in an open air safari truck. (NB: the zoo also offers an adults-only Roar & Snore experience, where grown-ups can discover the secret lives of animals through the kind of information we can only share with no children around).